Author: George Veletsianos Page 3 of 73

Time *with* people, online learning, and feeling ridiculous

I really enjoyed the quote below from John Warner, who is writing about graduate programs in writing and pursuing writing as a career. It strikes me that it also seems to capture some aspects of online learning which takes place in community with people vis-a-vis the independent, self-paced, and autodidactic approaches. Group dynamics and being in community are powerful, but even then, does being in community necessarily mean feeling not ridiculous? Perhaps the emphasis is on the “not so.”

Spending so much time immersed in a group of people that are interested in the same things you are, and want the same things you do can be incredibly nourishing. Being alone, and believing you want to write can honestly feel like a kind of madness. For sure there’s some writers who have a kind of self-belief and inner fortitude that buoys them, but the rest of us are like any other human being walking around wondering if what you think, what you believe, what you want, is ridiculous, and you are therefore a ridiculous person.

Basically, being surrounded by others who are similarly oriented makes you feel not so ridiculous. (emphasis mine)

(OA version) We need to get online learning right before the next crisis hits

The Globe and Mail published an op-ed I wrote. As a condition of being featured in the publication, the paper has first publication rights for the first 48 hours. Since it’s been more than 48 hours, and for posterity, I’m making a copy available below.

We need to get online learning right before the next crisis hits

George Veletsianos is a professor of education and Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University.

Classrooms this month feel more like the days before the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools and universities across Canada ditch mass testing, universal masking, screening forms and vaccination campaigns, they’re also ditching online learning. They’re abandoning it even though there are circumstances in which it can be even better than in-person learning.

The prevailing idea that online learning was a temporary and inadequate facade of the real thing to help us get through the COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizes this powerful approach to education. As a researcher who has been studying online learning for nearly two decades, and as an educator with more than 10 years of online teaching experience, I also find it alarming and short-sighted, but ultimately unsurprising.

It is alarming because our schools and universities are going to face new crises for which they will need online learning. Chief among them is the climate emergency.

When my home province of British Columbia was battered by atmospheric rivers last winter, schools closed owing to floods, mudslides and highway damage. Switching to online forms of education ensured continuity. Scientists warn that extreme weather events like this one are becoming more frequent and more violent. Natural disasters are the same way. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand also required, and benefited from, emergency responses to education continuity.

It is short-sighted because many of our fellow citizens are unable to access in-person education.

Who are they? People with disabilities. People who live in remote and rural communities. Military personnel. Professionals who work full-time. Students who work while completing their studies. People who care for their children or families full-time. In-person learning limits their access to education, raises barriers to their aspirations, and excludes them. Online learning can be designed in flexible ways to cater to their diverse needs and responsibilities.

Over the years, my colleagues and I interviewed hundreds of online learners. One that stands out for me is a mid-thirties mother who was taking online coursework while caring for an infant. She was studying to improve her child’s life and was exceptional in her tenacity. But online learning was a good fit for her regular life, not an emergency measure.

The rejection of online education is unsurprising because ever since its development, it has been considered the poor cousin of in-person education.

The body of evidence that is available generally shows that under the right circumstances online learning works, and can be as good as, if not better than, in-person education. Still, the belief that it is inferior persists. To be certain, the evidence isn’t absolute: online learning doesn’t work for everyone all the time. It is not as appropriate for young children as it is for adults and a recent study showed that when some students enroll in some in-person courses they are more likely to earn a degree than those who enroll exclusively in online courses. More importantly, whether online learning is successful or not primarily depends on its design.

Designers and researchers working with the Academic Learning Transformation Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University know a great deal about online learning design. When the 2015 UCI Road World Championship bicycle race descended in Richmond, Va., rather than deal with the disruptions caused by crowds, congestion and road closures, the university cancelled classes for its Monroe Park campus. Under the leadership of the lab, faculty took advantage of the opportunity to create 26 online courses that inspired students to explore a slew of topics related to cycling. The race became a setting for the students to collect and analyze data that related to physics, entrepreneurship, health, event planning and so on.

Design makes or breaks online learning, which is the exact reason why much of the online learning that happened during the pandemic – what researchers have dubbed emergency remote learning – was indeed awful. It was designed and delivered by professionals who were never trained for it, who never signed up for it and who were doing it while dealing with grief, loss, anxiety and the broader repercussions of the pandemic. What students need more than access to education is access to well-planned and purposefully designed education.

If one thing is certain right now it is that our world is filled with crises and uncertainty. In times like this, foresight and proactiveness are key. Ditching online learning is myopic. We will need it. It’s not a question of if – it’s a matter of when.

A Synthesis of Research on Mental Health and Remote Learning: How Pandemic Grief Haunts Claims of Causality

Stephanie Moore, Michael Barbour and I have published a paper synthesizing the results of all the research we could find relating to remote/online learning and mental health. Full paper and abstract below:

Moore, S., Veletsianos, G., & Barbour, M. (2022). A synthesis of research on mental health and remote learning: How pandemic grief haunts claims of causality. The Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association Journal, 2(1), 1-19.


While there has been a lot of debate over the impact of online and remote learning on mental health and well-being, there has been no systematic syntheses or reviews of the research on this particular issue. In this paper, we review the research on the relationship between mental health/well-being and online or remote learning. Our review shows that little scholarship existed prior to 2020 with most studies conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We report four findings: (1) pandemic effects are not well-controlled in most studies; (2) studies present a very mixed picture, with variability around how mental health and well- being are measured and how/whether any causal inferences are made in relation to online and remote learning, (3) there are some indications that certain populations of students may struggle more in an online context, and (4) research that does not assume a direct relationship between mental health and online provides the best insight into both confounding factors and possible strategies to address mental health concerns. Our review shows that 75.5% of published research on this topic either commits the correlation does not equal causation error or asserts a causal relationship even when it fails to establish correlations. Based on this study, we suggest that researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and administrators exercise extreme caution around making generalizable assertions with respect to the impacts of online/remote learning and mental health. We encourage further research to better understand effects on specific learner sub- populations and on course—and institution—level strategies to support mental health.

Keywords: mental health, online learning, remote education, anxiety, stress, well-being, wellness

New paper: a longitudinal analysis of faculty perceptions of online education and technology use from 2013 to 2019

Research on faculty use of technology and online education tends to be cross-sectional, focusing on a snapshot in time. Through a secondary analysis of the annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology conducted by Inside Higher Ed each year from 2013 through 2019, my colleagues* and I investigated changes in faculty attitudes toward technology and online education over time.

Specifically, the study examined and synthesized the findings from surveys related to attitudes toward online education, faculty experiences with online learning, institutional support of faculty in online learning, and faculty use of technology. Results showed a low magnitude of change over time in some areas (e.g., proportion of faculty integrating active learning strategies when converting an in-person course to a hybrid/blended course) and a large magnitude of change in other areas (e.g., proportion of faculty who believe that online courses can achieve the same learning outcomes as in-person courses). These results reveal that, prior to the widespread shift to remote and online learning that occurred in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty perceptions of technology and online learning were static in some areas and dynamic in others. This research contextualizes perceptions towards online learning prior to the pandemic and highlights a need for longitudinal studies on faculty attitudes toward technology use going forward to identify factors influencing change and sources of ongoing tension.

Johnson, N., Veletsianos, G., Reitzik, O., & VanLeeuwen, C. (2022). Faculty Perceptions of Online Education and Technology Use Over Time: A Secondary Analysis of the Annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology from 2013 to 2019. Online Learning, 26(3).

*Research assistants, post docs, and students working within our research labs/groups/teams are colleagues, and I wish we would all normalize this language.

The business case for edtech startups engaging education research

If you’ve been following my work for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve been advocating for edtech companies to collaborate with education researchers for a long while now. At the 2014 SXSW EDU  conference for example, my colleagues and I organized a panel titled Startups Should Talk with Researchers and Educators to highlight mutually beneficial relationships. Much has changed since then, but I often come across startups that can’t seem to grasp that the histories of online, distance, and digital learning can be informative and beneficial.

There are lots of reasons for this – and to be sure universities and researchers aren’t blameless, as a variety of factors limit the reach and impact of our scholarship.

Many have made the pedagogical case for education startups to  use the research available. In this post I want to make the business case for edtech startups to engage education research. Because it’s a win-win. And it’s simple.

By consulting with academics and/or learning designers, reading the research literature, exploring various pedagogical and learning design models, and understanding the relationships between teaching/learning and technology, you (i.e. startups) can save money and time.

How can you save money and time?

By identifying potential pain points and what education research has to say about your value proposition early on, you’d be able to develop minimum viable products that are at the very least  reflective of what we know about teaching and learning.

I’ve seen many startups fail because they took too long to understand the space. And too many startups accidentally stumbling upon what is common knowledge in education research after they’ve burned through initial investment rounds.

You (i.e. startups) do not need to start at 0 to get to 10. You can start at 3, 5, 7 even by engaging education research.

To make this example concrete, below is an excerpt of an email from an edtech startup that I received yesterday. This is a startup that’s been around for 2+ years and raised 2 rounds of funding.

Something unexpected keeps happening in our post-course surveys.

As you might guess, we regularly hear about the quality of [our company’s] instructors and the knowledge they pass on.

But we didn’t expect to hear so often of the value of the other course participants, of taking courses live, alongside other ambitious, generous professionals.

Turns out—it’s the other students in each cohort that make it special.

The power of peer learning and community isn’t a secret. Really, it’s common knowledge. All that post-course surveys do here is confirm what those of us who have been studying distance and online learning for decades already know. Only when startups fail to engage with the rich and long history of this field do they call the realization that motivated and knowledgeable peers working in community foster powerful learning experiences an unexpected discovery.

What if this realization came 18 months ago?

CFP: Women and Leadership in Distance Education in Canada

Call for chapter proposals: Women and Leadership in Distance Education in Canada

Edited by Cindy Ives, Pamela Walsh, and Rebecca E. Heiser (Athabasca University)


This book invites chapter contributions from women who are or have been educators in Canadian universities and who have served as leaders (at any level) in distance or online education. Leadership roles may be formal or informal, independent of positional authority, and emerge from the experiences of students, administrators, instructors, and other professionals (e.g., learning designers, educational developers). As leaders in distance education ourselves, we are committed to a deep and broad representation of leadership experiences of Canadian women faculty, students, professionals, and administrators whose stories and research may inform more balanced leadership practices in higher education.

  • In Canada and globally, participation in higher education has steadily increased in recent decades. World-wide enrolment in online learning has also increased, especially in response to the global pandemic. Women students continue to take advantage of the affordances of distance and online
  • While women have played significant roles as leaders in the advancement and development of distance education around the world, they have historically been underrepresented in formal academic and administrative leadership
  • Canadian universities have been among the earliest providers and leaders of distance education and online

Objective and Purpose

This book aims to incorporate narrative accounts of perspectives and insights of women relevant to their experiences with leadership in distance education in Canadian universities. Contributions that include documentation of women’s work, research reports, personal experiences and reflective accounts, or case studies of particular leadership contexts are welcome. Authors will offer their practical recommendations for current and future leaders in the field of distance education.

Areas of Focus

Chapter topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • Executive leadership for distance education and online learning in the 21st century
  • Enabling and supporting student leadership
  • Leadership development in graduate programs
  • Enabling and supporting instructor leadership
  • Supporting leadership of professional staff
  • Leadership development through reflective practice
  • Leadership challenges and opportunities for women
  • Leadership support for women and research in distance education
  • Social mobility of women in distance education as a pathway to professional recognition and promotion

Target Audience

The target audience of this openly published book is expected to be global, including academics, executive and department leaders, managers, and others in influential positions such as students, instructional designers, educational developers, student support specialists, and emerging scholars in distance and higher education. Readers will learn from the personal and professional experiences and research findings elaborated in the book’s chapters.

Submission Procedure and Guidelines

The editors are exploring opportunities with open publishers in summer 2022. We invite submissions in multiple formats from a variety of perspectives. Chapters can be theory or practice-based, reflective, conceptual, or other, and can be authored by one or more women.

Interested authors who are or have been leaders, practitioners, students or scholars in distance education should email a chapter proposal (approximately 500 words) for review by the editorial team, c/o Dr. Cindy Ives ( before October 1, 2022.

The proposal must include a 250-word abstract that:

  • Describes the context of the experience or research being described
  • Provides an overview of the proposed chapter, highlighting how it relates to the themes and purpose of the

An accompanying 250-word author biography should include relevant publications and a few author details that situate the distance education context.

Full chapter drafts are not necessary in the first stage of the submission process. After the proposal review process, authors will be invited by October 31, 2022, to contribute full chapter manuscripts of up to 5000 words, with a planned submission deadline of January 10, 2023. Full manuscripts will be subject to a blinded peer review process to evaluate them for inclusion in the volume. Manuscript details will be provided to those whose proposals are accepted.

Tentative Schedule for Publication

Proposal and Abstract Submission: October 1, 2022

Notification of Invite to Submit Chapter: October 31, 2022

Submission of Book Chapter: January 10, 2023

Peer Review Evaluation Sent from Editors to Authors: January 31, 2023

Author Revisions due February 28, 2023

Final editing: March 31, 2023

Final Book Submitted to Publisher: April 1, 2023

Anticipated Publication: This will depend on the publisher’s schedule – to be determined

Inquiries can be forwarded to

Dr. Cindy Ives,

2022 Research Workshop on Studying Anti-Social Behaviour Online

Details on this free (virtual and in-person) workshop below.

2022 Research Workshop on Studying Anti-Social Behaviour Online (in-person in Victoria, BC at Royal Roads University or online via Zoom) on Thursday, Aug 25, 2022.

Registration for this event is free, but space is limited. RSVP :

The research workshop will (1) examine the factors influencing the manifestation and propagation of online anti-social behaviour, (2) synthesize a multidisciplinary approach to study this phenomenon, and (3) develop a road map and a research agenda for future work in combating this dangerous trend. The programme features presentations from the organizing team and guest talks by Drs. Caroline Haythornthwaite (Syracuse University), K. Hazel Kwon (Arizona State University) and George Veletsianos (Royal Roads University).

About the event

The rising tide of online anti-social behaviour has elevated public concern and skepticism over the perceived benefits and promise of social media in society. A dark side of social media has emerged and remains evident today, with various countries, governing bodies, and citizens grappling with the impending normalization of aggressive behaviour, hostility, and negative discourse in online spaces. At the individual level, anti-social behaviour on social media has real-life psychological and emotional consequences for everyday people that demand more precise attention and interventions from researchers, practitioners, social media platforms, and policymakers. At the community and organizational level, anti-social behaviour can impact work performance and relationships, community ties, and lead to stress and burnout. At the societal level, there is also a concern that some forms of anti-social behaviour, such as hate speech, may galvanize xenophobic behaviour offline.

Tentative Agenda

8:30 – 9:00 Morning Coffee Reception

9:00 – 9:15 Welcome Remarks (Jaigris Hodson and President Philip Steenkamp, Royal Roads University)

9:15 – 9:30 Workshop Overview (Philip Mai, Toronto Metropolitan University)

9:30-10:00 Data collection: observed data (Anatoliy Gruzd, Toronto Metropolitan University)

10:00-10:30 Data collection: self-reported data (Jenna Jacobson, Toronto Metropolitan University)

10:30-11:00 Break

11:00-11:30 Data analysis: quantitative techniques such as Toxicity Analysis & Social Network Analysis (Felipe Bonow Soares, Toronto Metropolitan University)

11:30-12:00 Data analysis: qualitative techniques (Jaigris Hodson, Royal Roads University)

12:00 – 1:30 Lunch Break (Lunch will be provided courtesy of Royal Roads University)

1:30-2:15 Moderator or Algorithm? (Caroline Haythornthwaite, Syracuse University)

2:15-3:00 Data reporting: (Re)telling the stories (George Veletsianos, Royal Roads University)

3:00-3:15 Break

3:15-4:00 Research Agenda Overview: Challenges & Opportunities (K. Hazel Kwon, Arizona State University) 

4:00-4:15 Concluding Remarks & Adjournment

Organizing Committee

Jaigris Hodson

Philip Mai

Anatoliy Gruzd

Jenna Jacobson

Felipe Bonow Soares

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